2014. március 22., szombat

Bach in fashion - interview by Adrian Horsewood, (Early Music Today Magazine)

No, not that one – Adrian Horsewood talks to MIKLÓS SPÁNYI, on track to become the only person to have recorded every note of C. P. E. Bach’s keyboard music.

Mozart is said to have remarked to his patron Gottfried van Swieten that 'Bach is the father, we are the children' – yet the recipient of this compliment was not Johann Sebastian, but his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, the 300th anniversary of whose birth falls this year. C. P. E. Bach rose to greater heights of fame during his life than his father ever achieved during his, but was then almost totally forgotten within half a century of his death.
Hungarian keyboardist Miklós Spányi, who has just finished recording the complete keyboard concertos of C. P. E. Bach on the Swedish label BIS Records, points out that ‘during the 19th century the new, Romantic styles were simply considered “better”’. The younger Bach’s plunge into obscurity was little helped by the great renaissance of his father’s music from the time of Mendelssohn and Schumann onwards; as Spányi ruefully remarks, ‘How many books on music history or about J. S. Bach’s life have condemned the Bach sons to mere valueless shadows of their father?’
Spányi’s own interest in C. P. E. Bach began over 25 years ago, and he credits this long process of study and familiarisation as seminal to his development as a musician. ‘When I started to play his music – at least what I found in libraries at that time – I was not just enchanted, but realised that I had to become acquainted with his whole oeuvre. At that time this was not so easy due to the lack of editions; later on I began collecting the principal sources of his keyboard music and this way I soon got an overview of his output. The fascination did not cease, and via his music a whole new musical world opened to me; my basic ideas about music and performance changed.’
Spányi made his first recording of music by C. P. E. Bach in 1989, but it was not until 1995 that he managed to convince Robert von Bahr, the visionary founder and owner of BIS, of the merit of undertaking what was at that point an open-ended task. ‘In the 1990s the CD market was still very amenable towards huge complete recording projects, and BIS has always been a very innovative
company,’ says Spányi. (It no doubt helped his cause that another ‘complete’ Bach project on BIS, the cantatas of Johann Sebastian, started in the same year and also began to attract critical acclaim.)
As Spányi’s series of concerto recordings took off, with new discs appearing roughly every six months, he scored a further success when von Bahr agreed to launch a second, side-by-side series of the keyboard sonatas of C. P. E. Bach. This is now at volume 27, with a further dozen or so discs still to come. Yet his passion for the man and his music still remains: ‘Just as ever, I am still fascinated by his very personal style, already present in his earliest compositions. It was a long time until I understood how consequently C. P. E. Bach’s works are structured; building up organically from the smallest melodic structures to great forms (even in his most fantasia-like “free” compositions) is something he inherited from his father.’
Spányi is renowned for his proficiency on many historical keyboard instruments, and both of the aforementioned recording cycles are notable for the number used. ‘My aim in both series was to present the works on the types of instruments which C. P. E. Bach could possibly have played on, and ones representing a sound typical of the period. In fact we do not know exactly which instruments he had access to, and his lifespan covers the very period of instrument building when the greatest variety of instruments was invented and used at the same time.
‘In long series like ours one could and should use a huge range of instruments in order to demonstrate the situation in the 18th century, but this is impossible for practical reasons: many 18th-century
instrument types are not being built today, and recording on instruments in museums has its drawbacks. A final argument is limited budgets, too. Despite these problems, I introduced rather a lot of instruments in the series. In the concertos I have used three different types of harpsichord, two tangent pianos (Tangentenflügel) and two different fortepianos; in the solo series the clavichord, C. P. E. Bach’s favourite keyboard instrument, has a leading role – I have recorded on four different clavichords alone – besides all the fortepianos and tangent pianos. A few discs on harpsichord and some more on tangent piano are coming out soon.’
Despite the fanfare with which the 20th and final volume of concertos has appeared, Spányi is disappointed by the paucity of events this year that celebrate the composer; there are no festivals taking place centred on his music. ‘I have a few clavichord recitals this year, and a significant C. P. E. Bach weekend is being organised for Budapest in October, with concerts, lectures and workshops – and the recording of the solo works continues ... ’